The Film: House (1986)
The Principals: William Katt, Richard Moll and Kay Lenz.
The Premise: Roger Cobb writes horror novels, and is very successful at it. But when his son mysteriously disappears during a trip to his Aunt’s house, Cobb’s search for his boy eventually ends his marriage and ruins his career. Defeated and bruised, Cobb retreats to the house his Aunt left him in order to work on a new book about his time in Vietnam. Soon Cobb realizes that the house is haunted and an evil resides there that is connected to the disappearance of his son.
Is it Good: House is a silly movie. Where else can you find a bunch of TV stars like William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll and Kay Lenz headlining a theatrical horror movie? Whoever came up with that crew was obviously drugged out of their mind, and deserves a medal and a few days down at the Betty Ford Clinic, because somehow it worked! I have no clue how, but the cast is wonderful. Bill Katt carries the film in a way similar to (don’t start freaking out, it’s a small comparison) what Bruce Campbell did in Evil Dead 2, in that he has a lot of solo scenes with effects and creatures. George Wendy is his nosey neighbor who doesn’t have much to do, but is fine. Lenz is Cobb’s ex-wife, and her 80’s hair looks great in the movie. Then there’s Moll, who’s the villain. Actually, the house is the villain, it just uses Moll’s appearance in manifestation form in order to torment Katt. He’s great as the hulking, decaying ex-soldier buddy of Cobb’s back in his ‘Nam days.
Yes, House was released in theaters, although only to a little over 300 screens. Still, it managed to turn a nice profit, spawned a few sequels and attained a cult status that is well deserved. The effects are delightful, the kind of great prosthetic and claymation creations even the best CGI hasn’t manage to match yet – in terms of “weight” and to a degree, creativity. The monsters are more bizarre than scary, which may explain why they’re always hiding in closets and behind medicine cabinets that lead to the Ether.
The soundtrack by Harry Manfredini is classic Manfredini. Sure it sounds like one of his Friday the 13th scores, but who cares. They’re great also! No one this side of John Carpenter uses synths as well as Harry, and I wish the days of him doing more theatrical releases could somehow magically return. I used to love his House score so much I owned it on cassette tape in the old days!
Fellow Friday the 13th-ers Steve Miner and Sean S. Cunningham worked on House as well, with Miner directing. While they were known more for their slasher works at the time of this release, they surprised a lot of viewers by turning in this tame B-movie horror fest, which may explain why it didn’t last long in theaters. Miner’s use of lighting in House has always baffled me a bit: I’ve long thought the film was too bright for being set inside an old haunted house. Some of the dreadedness that can be found in the dark places is lost somewhat by having the picture be illuminated too much, but it isn’t enough to ruin the experience. No one in this movie is taking the goings-on too seriously, and that goes a long way in establishing the overall tone. They’re having fun, and so should you!
Overall this is a great little movie, not in the least bit scary but a blast nontheless, If you can find the DVD that includes House II grab it quickly. It’ll be a great addition to your collection of William Katt movies..
I’d be a fool if I didn’t mention the “You’re no good” scene: it’s my favorite part of the film and one of the best montages in horror history.